Friday, 4 September 2009

SMUDGE - by Paul Brazill

Prolific Paul's back...


‘No one gets out of life without dirtying their hands,’ said Julian ‘Smudge’ Bogajski, watching the steam rise from his muddy coffee. Fitz just nodded and started digging into his bacon and eggs with all the enthusiasm of an ex-con in a bordello.

The Star Coffee Bar was stiflingly hot and cluttered with the usual hodgepodge of waifs and strays that seemed to congregate at greasy spoons during the early evening. Behind the counter, Madge, a midget with a withered arm, was serving tea in half pint glasses to a couple of ageing Teddy Boys with fading tattoos. A sound system that was twice as big as Madge, blasted out a Mott The Hoople song.

Fitz’s head was pounding and he was starting to wish he’d gone to Smudge’s office now, but he really couldn’t risk being seen going in. He wanted to keep his problem as secret as possible and Smudge had a reputation.

‘I’ve gone arse over tit many a time, metaphorically and literally,’ continued Smudge. ‘Especially when I’ve been imbibing.’ He picked up a napkin and shined his pearl Yin and Yang cuff links. Sitting back in his chair he flicked lint from his black Hugo Boss suit, surveyed the room disinterestedly and then looked at his potential client.

Trevor Fitzroy was an overweight man in his late forties, wearing a safari suit and with an expression so hangdog as to make a basset hound jealous. Smudge could imagine him living with his mother and talcum powdering his palms before shaking hands. He was right on both counts.

Fitz absently scratched his arm with a fork. Without looking up, he said. ‘So, do you believe me?’

‘I’m a ... facilitator,’ said Smudge, squirming as Fitz pulled a string of bacon rind from his mouth. ‘I’m impartial. It matters not a jot if I believe you or not. My responsibility is to listen to your story. And to act.’

Fitz stared out of the window at a High Street, bustling with Christmas shoppers and glistening with fairy lights. A group of schoolkids raced past, chased by a wheezing Santa Clause.

‘So.Take it away. One more time,’ said Smudge with a grin.

‘Well, you see, I put it down to stress,’ said Fitz, shuffling in his seat.‘Things went pear-shaped about a year ago. This recession. You know?’

Smudge nodded.

‘I lost my job. I’ve always had a bit of a weight problem and I’d tried my best to keep it under control but you know , as an insurance salesman ... well, the company said I was bad for their image. I’d been with the firm all my life.I couldn’t face telling the wife and kids so I just continued leaving the house at the same time. Returned home at the same time. I spent my days like a ... a ghost. In the park. Library. Here. And, of course, I took out all sorts of loans to keep up the lifestyle. Rolling interest. You know’

‘Unfortunately, I do,’ said Smudge.

‘And then I kept getting this urge. This compulsion. It came during the night. In the street. I’d never felt that way before. I’d always been a clean living kinda guy.’

He downed his coffee in one.

‘I was in Harrods when the urge reached a ... a crescendo. I was in the food hall. And I saw them.A massive bunch of Cumberland sausages. Juicy. Succulent. Before I knew it I’d whipped them off the shelf and stuffed them down the front of my trousers.’

‘Ahem,’said Smudge.

‘And then I just wandered off, in some sort of a trance.’

‘And you ended up where?’said Smudge.

‘In the lingerie section.’

‘Aha,’ said Smudge, licking his lips.

‘I don’t remember getting there. Like I say I was in a ...sort of ...’

‘Trance. Yes, you did say.’

‘I came to when this vinegary looking woman started screaming at me. Calling me a pervert..’

‘What had happened?’ said Smudge.

‘I looked down and realized that my fly was half open and one of the sausages was sticking out...The security guards came and then the police and then I was charged. With...with... ’

‘With indecent exposure?’said Smudge.

Fitz nodded. Madge plonked a plate of apple pie and custard in front of him. He started to breathe heavily.

‘But I’m not a perv. If this gets out, well...You believe me don’t you? I need you to believe me Mr. Bogajski.’

‘Strangely, I do,’ said Smudge, ’But the most important question, of course, is what I need to do to eradicate your problem and, more importantly for me, if you can afford to pay.’

‘I can, I can.’ said Fitz. ‘Are you sure you can help?’

Smudge nodded. ‘Give me the information, the name of the shop, the description of the woman and I’m sure I’ll be able to renegotiate with her.’

Trembling, Fitz pushed a stuffed brown envelope over to Smudge. ‘It’s all there,’ he said.

‘Honest?’ said Fitz.

Smudge stood up, his suit impeccable, stretched his long arms and yawned.

‘I am – and have been - many things,’ said Smudge. ‘But I’m always honest. Hence the nickname.’

‘Eh?’ said Fitz.

‘Like in the Spandau Ballet song’ said Smudge, picking up his briefcase.

‘I don’t follow, ‘ said Fitz

‘True?’ said Smudge. ’You must know it?’

Fitz looked bewildered.

‘Baa ba ba baaa, daa - I know this...’ said Smudge as he walked out of the cafe, patting the Bowie knife holstered below his left shoulder.

Paul D. Brazill has had stories in A Twist Of Noir, Powder Burn Flash, The Legendary, Beat To A Pulp, Thrillers Killers n Chillers, Blink Ink, The Flash Fiction Offensive, Shoots & Vines, Six Sentences and Flashshots.
He can be found stalking ‘you would say that, wouldn’t you?’


  1. Good to have you back, Paul.

    Pissed me-sides at the dangling sausage bit even though I sensed it coming I still couldn't stop laughing.

    Loved it and a great intro to Smudge, but since you chose my Kareoke song by Spaudau Ballet, arguably there's one too many "Ba's" used as he exits...?

  2. Ta Col. And yes, you're right. Knock a 'Ba' off for us If you can.

  3. Taken a 'ba' off (sounds naughty that!).

    Also took the liberty of adding an extra 'a' to the last 'baa' - hope you don't mind my pedantry!

  4. I liked this, Paul - great atmosphere, nice details like the midget waitress and the teddy boys. I could almost smell the smoke and the HP Sauce and found meself craving a bacon & egg sanger.

    Smudge's adventures could become an addiction...

    Cheers, Ian

  5. Great story, Paul, and Smudge is a terrific character. Will we be seeing more of him?

  6. Thanks all. Yep, joyce, Smudge will be heading back this way in the next couple of weeks, I hope.

  7. what a hoot. completely enjoyed this... and i'm glad to comment on it. we writers live for comments, don't we?

  8. Smudge is a great character. Glad you are writing more of him. My favorite description was
    "vinegary looking woman" ~That really tickled me and I really 'got' the image.

    Good job, Paul.

  9. hot and bothered this one. like all the cast of clowns. very fine romp paul ... glad you are back in action...

  10. I love cafe scenes, especially when it involves greasy bacon and men with an appetite for trouble. I also liked the Bowie knife over a Glock, more original.
    Nice going -

  11. Paul, top work mate. Midget waitress with a withered arm, only you.

  12. Apt descriptions and great background and plot to story. Harrod's was described perfectly even in its brevity. Enjoyed this and the Spandau Ballet bit. Some of us old timers remember the 80's. (LOL) Well done, lad!

    Joe from 6S

  13. So, I'm loving the stories, for all the right reasons, but something's niggling in the back of my head. Why's there a photo of a set of bead curtains? Then it strikes me, Je-sus, they're bloody sausages!! Tells me I'm not paying attention like I should. Great story, Paul, and I for one will hail a return of Smudge.

  14. Great imagery, as ever, Paul. It would be good to read some more about Smudge and the other dodgy individuals that he hangs around with. Top stuff!

  15. Great story. Loved all the little details and descriptions that made this tale really come to life. "Vinegary looking woman" was one of my favourites as well.

  16. Great story, a most unusual compulsion that I still can't grasp (but I laugh at just the same), and a dark cloud on you Paul, for putting that miserable Span-dough Bull-ay (sic) song in my head. The warbling and not what Smudge will do with the blade, being the true horror for me.

  17. I'll keep the praise rolling--great work, Mr. Brazill. Good details, excellent reveal at the end. Looking forward to more Smudge.

    P.S. Apologies if three simlar comments appear; my computer is acting up.

  18. Thanks everyone. Glad you enjoyed it. smudge and the others will return in more meat prodect based capers!
    Lee, Madge The Midge -with the withered arm was (is?) actually a Middlesbrough prostitute who used to frequent'The Pardise' the towns only gay nightclub, back in the eighties.I thought that was a little far fetched.

    The sausage/flasher story is from the first newspaper story I read when i went back to england in the summer.

    The Star Coffe bar is still in East London, and was a regular haunt for me in the nineties. The story barely begins to capture the flavour of the place.

    Erin, I think knives are much more British weapons than guns.

    Thanks everyone. More Smudges on the horizon.

  19. Paul's been putting me in song-mode today.

    First, Grandmaster Flash over at The Flash Fiction Offensive and now Spandau Ballet.

    I, too, enjoyed the vinegary woman description and knew what was going to happen as soon as Fitz shoved the sausages down his pants and, yet, it was a roll on the floor moment.

    Excellent job, Paul.

  20. Lots of fun. (If that's the right word.)